Sunday, July 22, 2018

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - Exercising the Spirit

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been discussing the importance of maintaining a healthy spirit and what it takes to do so. By getting rest through prayer and quiet moments with the Lord and by eating the right spiritual food, you will soon see your spirit and faith grow stronger each day in order to fend off the attacks of Satan and his whispers and temptation.

Doctors will always stress the value of exercise in building up a strong, healthy body. The same holds true for our spirit. Through the regular exercise of our faith and dedication to doing the work given to us by God, we strengthen our spirits and grow stronger. It is important to understand that a strong, healthy spirit requires that we follow Jesus’ example of serving those around him. He is not only our savior but he is also our example of how we should act every day of our lives.

Let us look at Paul, as he is saying good-bye to the Ephesian Elders, in Acts 20. Paul tells them  that he faces trials and troubles in each town he visits, but he is prepared to deal with the situations by remaining grounded in his faith. “24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” He uses two very important phrases in discussing what he must do, “finish the race” and “complete the task”. Both of these phrases illustrate action on his part. Activities require us to be at our peak performance if we are to finish a race or complete a task. It is only because of a healthy spirit that Paul is able to do these things. 

We, like Paul, must be at our peak performance and must have a Christ-like attitude to motivate us to continue to grow in strength. Let us look at Philippians 2. Paul here tells us what it means to have a Christ-like attitude. “3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” Once again, we see that it is just not enough to believe. We need to add action to our belief. We need to be motivated to do righteous things not for our benefit but for the glory of God.

Paul continues to use the example of training to illustrate what should be our daily desire to be spiritually fit and ready for all situations. Let us look at 1 Corinthians 9. In Paul’s first letter to the Christians in Corinth, he uses the preparation that athletes use to prepare for competition. “25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.” We, like true athletes, must be disciplined in our training and prepared at all times to meet the challenges that we face. Paul continues by reminding us that we, like him, must run with purpose with every step. We cannot just “phone it in” and hope that we trying our best. We must be doing our best every moment of every day. By following Jesus’ unselfish example and following his words, we are able to discipline our spirits to run the race or fight the good fight. 

As part of this discipline, we are to help one another to excel in our faith and to remain strong. Just like having a personal trainer or workout buddy, we are to help one another and build each other up. It is not enough to just build ourselves up. We are to build each other up so that all are ready to handle the onslaught of Satan and his armies of demons. Let us look at Paul’s first letter to Timothy. In chapter 6, Paul challenges Timothy to ready himself for the battles ahead. “12 Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses.” Like a personal trainer or workout buddy, Paul challenges Timothy to push himself in his faith. Timothy is challenged to seek the true faith and to hold tightly to the eternal life God has given him. As we grow in our faith, we, too, must challenge each other to grow even stronger by exercising our spirit and our desire to serve God and one another. It is only through this that we are truly able to call ourselves Christians. We challenge our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus to seek the true faith and hold tight to God’s gift of eternal life. Just as we challenge those around us, we, too, are challenged to be even stronger so that we are able to face the trials and troubles ahead of us and continue to build up our healthy spirit.

In each example given by Paul, we see that action is required of us. It is not enough to just believe. We must be active in our faith. Using the example of athletes, they cannot expect to win gold medals at the Olympics by simply reading a book or watching a video about their sport in order to win the gold. They practice. They work. They push themselves. The same holds true for our healthy spirits. We must act daily in our faith. In James 2, we see that the right actions along with a strong faith produces righteousness. “14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, ‘Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well’—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? 17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” Once again, if we do not combine our faith with good deeds, our faith is unhealthy. What happens to unhealthy tissue? It dies and becomes useless. It consumes and wears down the body so that it will, in time, succumb to infection. The same holds true for our spirit. If we do not act to show the love of Jesus and the Father to others, our spirit will become unhealthy and it will wither and ultimately perish. Do you want to watch your spiritual health become unhealthy? I should say not. So, we must exercise our faith by applying good deeds daily to help those around us. By doing so, we add action to our faith and demonstrate to the world that we are strong in our faith.

With a strong and healthy spirit, we are able to do many things to bring glory to God and show the world that we are truly faithful. By spending time with God in prayer and away from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, we are able to rest our spirits. By eating wholesome spiritual food that we should be craving daily, we are able to energize our spirit. By exercising our spirit daily by acting in faith, we are able not only to prepare ourselves for the good fight or the race ahead but also prepare our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus for their fights and races ahead.

As I reflect on the importance of having a healthy spirit, I cannot help but think of the words of General George S. Patton. He said, “Always advance. Never dig in.” As Christians, we need to heed his words. By having a healthy spirit, we are able to advance to meet the challenges of Satan and hold tightly to God’s gift of salvation. I cannot help but think of young David as he faced an armor-cladded Goliath. A puny boy compared to this giant warrior. While Goliath wore the armor forged by men, David, with a healthy spirit, wore the whole armor of God. He was prepared and spiritually strong to meet Goliath on the field of battle. When David tells King Saul that he will fight Goliath, Saul says, 1 Samuel 17, “Don’t be ridiculous! There’s no way you can fight this Philistine and possibly win! You’re only a boy, and he’s been a man of war since his youth.” But, God had prepared David. While watching his sheep, David had faced down many wild animals only armed with a sling, but the hand of God was upon him. Instead of carrying a sword to fight Goliath, David is armed with nothing more than a boy’s weapon, a sling. But, in the hands of someone strengthened over time and with God’s mighty strength, David’s spirit was ready. Instead of digging in and waiting for Goliath to advance, David runs to meet Goliath. “48 As Goliath moved closer to attack, David quickly ran out to meet him. 49 Reaching into his shepherd’s bag and taking out a stone, he hurled it with his sling and hit the Philistine in the forehead. The stone sank in, and Goliath stumbled and fell face down on the ground.

When we are spiritually healthy, we are able to move with speed against any foe or situation. As you go through this week, make it a point to strengthen your spirit through plenty of spiritual rest, eating spiritually wholesome food and exercising your faith daily. When you do all of these things, your healthy spirit can stand firm in His grace. 

May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.
~ Numbers 6:24-26 New Living Translation (NLT)

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